Is this the best poker game ever?

Nov 23, 2004 3:38 AM

By Rob Singer

All casinos offer the video poker player a large array of games to choose from. If you figure it’s best to play the ones with the highest rate of return calculated through an infinite number of games, following theoretical flawless play, then you are missing out on a huge portion of the casino experience, which is also supposed to be fun.

For me, I left my math books back in college. Mathematics is both a science as well as an art, and what this knowledge did was give me a keen dose of common sense. But I know one thing: the casino will always prevail in the long run.

So, whether you play video poker games with 96 percent expected return or 102.8 percent, adding in any number of player perks (comps, cash back, gifts, gasoline, drawings, etc.), with the exception of an extreme amount of good luck, the casino will get the money.

Nevertheless, as a player who lives in the world of the "short run," you can fashion your play to give yourself the best chance of coming out ahead. And that’s always been the cornerstone of my basic playing strategy.

Toward that end, one of the staple games in my arsenal has been Triple Bonus Poker Plus (TBP+). Although those who seem to think video poker can only be played successfully if one follows the math to a "T," this game was made for those who want a fighting chance to win. Yes, it is volatile, and yes, you need a larger-than-average bankroll to play it for a profit. But when you are interested in winning cash TODAY, it is the casino’s best game to play.

All of my play strategies (except Multi-Strike) are short-term/goal-oriented methods that incorporate a structured progression in denomination as well as volatility. My reason for choosing TBP+ is, not surprisingly, the large payouts for the special quads (600 for four deuces, threes and fours, and 1,200 for four aces), as well as a rather delightful 500 credits for a straight flush. Kickers aren’t required, and 600 is always enough to meet a short-term goal.

I’ve already heard several criticisms of my playing TBP+ on a regular basis. One of them stems from the 1,200 credits paid for hitting four aces. Since I usually play at dollars or higher, people complain that it invites an automatic W2G tax slip upon winning. Yes, it does, but to a professional player a W2G means the same as the word "jackpot." This is what you’re there for!

Then, of course, there’s the ridicule often heard from the math crowd who say the game is never found at 100 percent or higher return and no successful player would ever be caught dead at such a game.

The lower, overall return usually means there are reduced payouts for the flush and/or the full house. I’m told every hour I play the game I’m giving up $15 or $27 or more than if I played 10/7 Double Bonus Poker or some other "positive expectation" game. But guess what ? I’m not playing for a flush or a full house! Doing so would place me in the same boat as any other loser in the casino.

I always play for the quads, and in some cases I utilize special plays that deviate from expert play strategy. And the reason? It’s because I play for GOALS, and once my overall session goal is met I pack up and go home. If going for the flush or full house will attain that, I’ll play for it. If not (which is usually the case) and there’s a special quad opportunity, then that’s what I shoot for.

Remember, nothing in video poker is known ahead of time, and nothing is a given. I play the game understanding that if you don’t give the big hand an opportunity to appear when the machine gives you the opportunity to go for it, it never will appear.

This game is especially effective whenever I play my Romp-Through-Town strategy. Simply, I play a machine until I win a net profit of $40 on a machine, then leave to play in another casino or another machine.

This hopping around strategy was developed with smaller bankrolls and smaller goals in mind. As such, any 500 or 600 or 1,200 credit winning hand is always more than enough to walk away a winner — even after losing a hundred credits. TBP+ is popular in Las Vegas but not available in some other jurisdictions. But it is video poker’s best overall game, and it can be a winner for you just as it has been for me.